Monday, July 22, 2013

Oleander Girl by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

3 Star

Orphaned at birth, seventeen-year-old Korobi Roy is the scion of a distinguished Kolkata family and has enjoyed a privileged, sheltered childhood with her adoring grandparents. But she is troubled by the silence that surrounds her parents’ death and clings fiercely to her only inheritance from them: the love note she found hidden in her mother's book of poetry. Korobi dreams of one day finding a love as powerful as her parents', and it seems her wish has come true when she meets the charming Rajat, the only son of a high-profile business family.

But shortly after their engagement, a heart attack kills Korobi's grandfather, revealing serious financial problems and a devastating secret about Korobi's past. Shattered by this discovery and by her grandparents' betrayal, Korobi undertakes a courageous search across post 9/11 America to find her true identity. Her dramatic, often startling journey will, ultimately, thrust her into the most difficult decision of her life.

Jen - 3 Star

I was intrigued right away in the first pages of Oleander Girl by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. I love the rich descriptions of the Indian culture and I have always loved reading about a family’s history. 

Oleander Girl has complex story lines and interesting characters. Her storytelling reminded me of a walk down an elaborately decorated hallway with many windows, doors and portraits on the walls. 

The main character is 18-year-old Karobi who is young,  in love and curious. She’s been raised by her grandparents and is devastated when her grandfather dies. The patriarch of the family, her grandfather, left a hole in the lives of his family members with his passing but he also left many, many questions unanswered. 

Why would he never talk to Karobi about her mother and father? Who is the author of the love poem Karobi found in her late mother’s belongings? These are the questions that start the tailspin of questions in this novel. 

Another layer to the story is that Karobi is engaged to marry Rajat, a wonderful man from a well to do family. My favorite areas in the book are the ones focused on Rajat and Karobi’s relationship. I loved reading about their courtship and the traditionals of a marriage in their culture. 

The story began to unravel a little for me in the middle. There was just too much going on. Rajat helping Karobi’s grandmother, Karobi asking questions about her family’s past and the impending nuptials of the young couple, on top of a storyline involving Rajat’s family became a little hard to follow. 

When Karobi decides to travel to America to find out more about her father, I have to admit I was a little disappointed. I just wanted her to stay so I read more about the Indian traditions with her wedding. The clothes, the ceremonies, the people. The author does such an amazing job writing in beautiful description. 

Her decision to travel to America, post 9-11  as a young, shelter Indian woman is a very courageous one. The answers she seeks about who her father was and why her mother’s legacy was kept so secretive will be hard on Karobi, but like many great coming of age stories, she learns much more than she bargained for about herself, her family and life. I was proud of Karobi, but couldn’t help but ponder over the other road she didn’t take at the end of the book. 

I think Oleander Girl is an interesting novel because of its cultural richness and emotional landscape but did find the involved storylines with sideline characters a struggle to follow. 

Thank you to Free Press  for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

Connect with Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni:

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...